Oprah promotes ‘Superman’

Oprah Winfrey’s Sept. 20 show, a promo for Waiting for Superman, will feature filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, D.C. school chief (for now) Michelle Rhee, Bill Gates and other education reformers.

Winfrey will give $1 million to six public school organizations that are succeeding in educating low-income and minority students.

Among the six is Aspire Public Schools, which calls itself California’s top-performing school system serving predominately low-income students. The charter group’s 25 schools average 824 on the state Academic Performance Index, exceeding California’s goal. All students in Aspire’s three graduating classes last year were accepted to four-year colleges or universities, with many being the first in their family to attend.

Waiting for Superman is getting incredible media coverage, no doubt because of Guggenheim’s Inconvenient Truth credentials.

In a rave review in New York Magazine, John Helleman writes:

“Superman” affectingly, movingly traces the stories of five children—all but one of them poor and black or Hispanic—and their parents as they seek to secure a decent education by gaining admission via lottery to high-performing charter schools. At the same time, the film is a withering indictment of the adults—in particular, those at the teachers unions—who have let the public-school system rot, and a paean to reformers such as Canada and Michelle Rhee, chancellor of the Washington, D.C., public schools, who has waged an epic campaign to overhaul the notoriously dysfunctional system over which she presides.

. . . “The movie is going to create a sense of outrage, and a sense of urgency,” says Arne Duncan, Barack Obama’s secretary of Education. New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein concurs. “It’s gonna grab people much deeper than An Inconvenient Truth, because watching ice caps melt doesn’t have the human quality of watching these kids being denied something you know will change their lives,” Klein says. “It grabs at you. It should grab at you. Those kids are dying.”

Katie Couric also is a big fan of Superman.

Union leader Randi Weingarten is not.

Summit Public Schools, which operates the high-performing Summit Preparatory Charter High School and Everest Public High School in Redwood City, is one of the schools featured in Superman. Summit is trying to open two new high schools in East San Jose to meet demand from 900 parents, but the East Side Union High School District rejected one of the charters Thursday night on the basis that the schools are too similar. (Summit likes to keep its schools small.)

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  1. Jackie Evangelista says:

    It’s tragic that supposedly enlightened people refuse to recognize and find solutions for the larger issue. Unless we can address the problem of inner city and rural poverty, charter schools are only a band-aid for the few. Everyone should read Diane Ravitch’s new book, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.” And teacher scapegoating has already poisoned public attitudes about public education nationwide and has probably discouraged countless young people from entering the profession. Already the best and brightest are echewing the field. Not a real solution. Sad to say, it seems both parties only see education through a political lens. The bottom line seems to be: Can they use education to rouse people and stay in power? I am sickened and feel betrayed by the Democratic Party (and I’m not even a teacher).

  2. Stacy in NJ says:

    Wonderful. What took them so long?

  3. Why is everyone so in love with Ravitch’s book? Yes, she points out that a classical education is the best one for all kids – think we really and truly know that but reformers are throwing so much money at education everyone else has forgotten. Still she does not offer a single suggestion on how to improve…kids must be assessed regularly to see how they are progressing

    Poverty, true is not a school issue but it impacts everything that a school does…do if poverty cannot be overcome or the cycle broken without a solid education…doesn’t this put more of the burden on educators to figure out how to reach these kids and help them excel? If correct, then the current system of educating kids must be changed…

    What am I missing?

    I am looking forward to the movie…

  4. It’s not everyone whose so in love with Ravitch’s book and the reason some people are in love with Ravitch’s book can be found in the sub-head – “How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education”.

    Testing leads to expectations and not just of the kids. Choice turns parents from baby-factories producing the unfortunately-necessary rationale for the existence of the public education system into human beings whose desires, preferences and requirements can’t be blithely ignored.

  5. I think that poverty is largely an excuse for the plights of inner-city neighborhoods. Throughout American history (and present) there have been numerous examples of society struggling through poverty while maintaining the characteristics that make one successful in school and in life.

    If simply solving poverty would be the answer, there would not be numerous examples of new middle class and even upper class individuals exhibiting the same irresponsible and criminal behaviors that one finds largely in cities.

    What’s the difference between an impoverished city and an impoverished mining town? It’s not the money.

    If you tolerate minor misbehaviors long enough then it becomes impossible to enforce the rules. This applies to both a classroom and the nation. We have simply lost our standards of civility due to the misguided progressive movement that grew out of the civil rights movement in the 60’s.

  6. Stacy in NJ says:

    Poverty is an excuse. In India, China, Africa (and previously in the US) kids suffer extreme poverty but when offered the opportunity of education grab it with two hands and work their backsides off. Many American students don’t value the opportunity education provides (see Joanne’s post about paying students for grades).

    Poverty isn’t really the problem. The values of the culture are the problem. Change the values – change the culture – change the outcome.

  7. Well, then we need a national leader to help us change our values back…and unfortunately, the only way I see that happening is if a future President is able to seize despotic-level power.

  8. Jackie Evangelista says:

    Yes, I agree that it’s more complex than poverty. Yes, it’s the culture. But what led to that culture? We should recognize that white flight left those in the cities who couldn’t afford to leave, i.e., those who were poverty stricken. As Ruby Paine has pointed out, people in poverty (no matter their color) value different things. I don’t know what the solution is either, but I definitely think that unfairly blaming the problems of inner city education on teachers is counterproductive to developing a better educational system. If teachers are the problem in inner cities, why are suburban schools able to operate so well? Choice simply allows those few left in the city to leave perpetuating the problem described above. The evidence simply does not support that charter or voucher schools make that much of a difference, which is why I recommended Ravitch’s book–because it reviews that evidence. We need other, new ideas and approaches of a pedagogical nature.

  9. to allen — that is why I am such a strong believer in choice…well said!

  10. dcpsparent :
    re: Michelle Rhee’s “mom friendly” comment, prepared specifically for the Oprah show, about moms not tolerating mediocre teachers being given time to grow and develop professionally. Well. The unqualified, needing-to-grow-professionally, TFA principal that Rhee PUSHED on our school, despite protests from a panel of engaged, informed, truly progressive, professional educators and parents with advanced degrees in education . . . hired and protected even more inexperienced, unqualified teachers who will take YEARS to develop into true professionals. But the principal and those teachers all know how to say “yes” to their boss. Too bad they don’t know the basics of how children learn, or the nuances of curriculum and instruction. It is hard, hard work indeed to have to reprogram my kids every day after school, to get them to embrace and understand learning again. Rhee’s influential, BAD decisions and practices, more than ANY OTHER failure of the DC Public School system, has me on the verge of pulling my kids out of school. Rhee embarrassed herself mightily at the DC screening of this film with her comment insulting DC voters. My kids, and the 350 others in their school, will not be devastated at all when she leaves. We assume she will head to the business world for which she may have more appropriate skills.


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